This was an interesting commission. A client approached me with two sets of single bed headboards and footboards. They’d rescued them before they were sent off to landfill. And a good job they did – the frame and panel were all made of solid mahogany.
Their brief was to combine the two singles into a double headboard and footboard. Structurally a little challenging because the new joint in the middle is always going to be the weakest point. However, as the headboard and footboard would be attached to a separate bed frame, they were going to be decorative rather than structural.
When I received the singles, the french polish was pretty scratched up and damaged in places. I wanted to keep as much of the original intact as possible. I also needed to apply steam to the joints to disassemble the two sets of frames and panels before working on recombining them again.
Thankfully, the original bedmaker had used hide glue for all the joints, so these came apart with the steam treatment pretty easily.
The two singles would be combined with a supporting leg in the middle. This left me with a spare leg for both the headboard and footboard. I could use this as raw material to make the y-shaped joining piece for the top rails.
This y-shaped pieces had twin tenons on each side and were angled partly for aesthetic reasons, and partly to increase the glue surface area for the joints.
The panels needed to be cut down slightly to size, so this let me remove some of the worst damage.
To strengthen everything up, I swapped the exsisting dowel joints for mortise and tenon joints. I also plugged the holes from where the original cast iron bed hardware had been attached.
Once I’d managed to figure out a way to clamp the thing togther, I used hide glue again on all the new joints.
Then I spent a good few days cleaning up and reworking the french polish in the traditional way. I had to conduct a few colour match experiments to figure out what type of shellac to use. I’m no expert at french polishing, but the end result was neat and the pieces left in a far better condition than they arrived in.